In early October, the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) initiated criminal proceedings investigating possible criminal offenses – incitement to commit crimes and bribery. The investigation is related to the execution of construction work at Riga Eastern Clinical University Hospital (RAKUS), but it is not directed against officials or employees of the hospital. Two persons have been applied a security measure. Proceedings for the imposition of coercive measures against one legal person have also been initiated.
That's all the information that came out publicly from KNAB about the case. Health Minister Hosams Abu Meri (New Unity) was still unaware of any problems with construction work at the major hospital on Tuesday. It should be recalled that in October, the delays in the construction of the new building of Pauls Stradiņš Clinical University Hospital and the risk of losing millions of European Union (EU) Structural Funds caused the dismissal of the hospital's council and board.
Major construction works are also taking place in the Eastern hospital as part of EU fund projects, so Abu Meri contacted its management and was already briefed slightly better on Wednesday.
"Speaking to the head of RAKUS yesterday, he assured me that indeed these issues are not related to RAKUS staff. So it is positive that our employees not corrupt. The second question is whether this affects the ERDF or funding. There are no signals like that right now. Then the action will take place and, I hope, there will be no impact whatsoever on the use of money or the realization of the project. But I really don't have that specific information right now,” the health minister told De Facto.
The search for EU fund projects shows that RAKUS has two ERDF projects in its active phase, with EU funding of tens of millions of euros. Each project has several sections: some are completed, others are under construction. De Facto found that: the KNAB investigation is related to the construction of the new infection block of RAKUS Emergency Medicine and Patient Admissions Clinic. Construction work is carried out here by LVS Building Ltd.
Two years ago, the Eastern Hospital concluded a contract for the new admissions clinic with the association of persons LVS Building and AIMASA Ltd, while the signatory of the contract was LVS Building Board Member and then owner Normunds Lācis. After the latest contract change signed in August, construction work is due to be completed shortly before this year's Christmas – on December 22. The total contract price currently exceeds EUR 10.3 million excluding VAT.
Criminal proceedings were initiated by the KNAB on October 9. Only after the commencement of proceedings is it possible to carry out searches, detentions, and apply security measures. Investigating RAKUS's active construction companies, De Facto found that LVS Building changed owners on October 18 – Normunds Lācis transferred the shares to his wife Jolanta Lāce. A day later, the pair entered into a matrimonial property arrangement which recorded as the wife's estate both the shares in that company, the previously bear-owned house and land plot, and the luxury Porsche.
Jolanta Lāce directed LTV to Normunds Lācis or lawyers. Lācis, in turn, said he had no comments.
Meanwhile, the company monitoring the construction of the infection block, “P.M.G.”, claimed that no investigation was being carried out against the company or its employees, but they should not comment further.
Nor can the hospital itself, which has also received very little information from the KNAB, say much. It is apparent from a conversation with Normunds Staņēvičs, the chairman of the hospital's board, that the medical institution was not the one who approached corruption cops. So the hospital has no clarity on the matter either.
"We were informed by KNAB, they also asked us for information because indeed we were informed of such an event. And, of course, it is extremely disappointing that, in fact, because of two third parties' dishonest conduct, our hospital name is being implicated in such a very negative context, and also that it casts a shadow both on us, on this project and on all the people that work here," the chairman of RAKUS's board said.
Staņēvičs hopes that stress will remain the only negative aspect of the criminal case.
The hospital's talks with the Central Finance and Contracts Agency so far have not revealed any predictions that funding in any European fund project could be suspended.
Such a threat would arise if criminal proceedings had been initiated against one of RAKUS's responsible officials in connection with the activities carried out within the framework of the project.